Businesses need more value from IA adoption: KPMG

The vast majority of organisations are struggling to secure value from their Intelligent Automation (IA) activities, with more than a third (38 per cent) of companies confirming investments of more than £7.7 million.

A survey of nearly 600 business leaders across 13 countries - including 42 vice president, director and C-Suite executives in the UK - conducted by KPMG International and HFS Research, found that only around a fifth (22 per cent) of companies have scaled up or industrialised IA technology.

Overall, 22 per cent of firms had scaled up or commercialised IA technologies, with the most popular options being artificial intelligence (AI) - which is being piloted by 43 per cent of firms - followed by natural language processing (NLP) and smart analytics, with robotics process automation (RPA) being the least trialled tech.

Despite this investment, the study found that businesses were not scaling intelligent automation technologies fast enough to meet their desires objectives and returns.

The sectors that saw the highest growth in investment in intelligent automation were shared services and global business services.

There was a distinct correlation between scale and top financial performance, with two thirds of the top performing companies surveyed having developed their IA propositions, while firms with less developed capabilities were falling behind.

The shortage of skills needed to support AI - which is emerging as a dominant challenge for businesses across all sectors - was found to be the primary concern for business leaders when it came to achieving their goals. Other notable challenges included uncertainty about the financial investment needed; lack of senior management mandate and vision to deploy IA; and a lack of organisational clarity and accountability for driving the IA agenda.

However, despite the uncertainty surrounding cost and implementation, business executives said they were positive about the impact IA will have on jobs – half of respondents said they were optimistic about the future and believe that automation will impact less than a fifth of their staff.

Shamus Rae, head of digital disruption at KPMG UK, said: "Investment in IA technologies, as well as their adoption, is gaining traction rapidly, but many companies are still struggling to demonstrate significant impact.

“All too often these projects are stunted in pilot mode and fail to deliver the intended results because they are not underpinned by a digital transformation strategy for the whole organisation,” he continued. “When implemented with a clear vision and integrated approach, IA can propel businesses forward by providing a stark competitive edge but also deliver considerable returns in the shape of cost saving and revenue generation.”

Rae explained that to realise the full potential of IA beyond cost savings, organisations should think strategically about technological investments and incorporate change management every step of the way and throughout their business model.

“This will be essential, as even the most basic of RPA technologies will impact the future of work – broad-ranging transformation strategies are critical to future-proofing companies’ most valuable resource: their workforce,” he concluded.

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